Is it me or are Tapas-style menus all the rage right now? The concept of “small-plates” no longer exists as a Spanish novelty because everything from Korean fusion to American comfort food restaurants now embrace the trend.
I enjoy eating out on small plates. You can get a taste of everything without overeating (unless you’re gluttonous and order too many), it’s perfect for groups so that you can easily and evenly split the check, and often the courses come out as soon as they are prepared lending to a laid back, rustic ambiance.
Of the New York City eateries that I frequent, I think Buvette most effectively excels at this concept mastering the art of French small plates. Self-named a gastrothèque, Buvette is a café meets wine bar meets neighborhood bistro. Take it from this Francophile, Buvette evokes a Parisian hole-in-the-wall with its elegant yet intimate interior and waiters who exude French personas (Though I found them to be more accommodating). Excuse me while I fake cry from Parisian nostalgia. The space is small so I do not recommend going with a large party but with small parties I’ve had no issue with prompt seating and patrons can get a glass of wine while waiting to be seated. A large chalkboard dressed with the outlines of Italy and France adorns the main wall with a listing of wines by the glass, cleverly placed by geographic region. The seating is a mix of communal and small tables in close quarters, a touch that adds to a neighborhood- Parisian feel. This design may not be for everyone (my bougie mother) but I find it simply charmant.
Buvette excels in the art of small bites filled with big flavor, leaving the diner wanting more. More often than not I find that French resatuarnats in American lack the luster of their authentic counterparts but Buvette delivers on the authentic, rich flavors served up with a new spin. The menus adds to the character of the restaurant with whimsical branding and pop-up elements. Trop mignonette! Their wine menu is quite extensive and for this French wine snob, I did not view it with distaste but rather could not choose among the good selection of French Reds and Whites.
I always like to start with the tartinettes which are basically slices of bread topped with a variety of pestos or spreads. My personal favorite is the Pesto Di Noci Tartinette (Walnut pesto with parmesan and sage). The walnut pesto is rich and satisfying, truly a unique twist to a run-of-the-mill crostini. Also the Pesto di Parmi Tartinette with pearls of prosciutto is another winning option for those who are craving a saltier first bite.
The Steak Tartare served with cornichons and capers was probably one of the most authentic I’ve had in NYC (although it was missing the raw egg). Also their signature Cassoulet with duck, pork & beans was on point delivering on all the decadence this dish promises. Their menu also includes a good selection of Charcuterie along with inventive yet simple vegetable dishes such as the Betteraves (Roasted beets, almonds & horseradish) and Poireuax en Vinaigrette (Leeks in mustard Vinaigrette) emphasizing that each dish is executed well in both presentation and taste.
However, I find that the stars at Buvette are often its specials. Last time I visited I had the Braised Rabbit (divine) and Apple stuffed with Sausage (another assured winner). It’s the innovative and tasty, constantly-changing menu that keeps me coming back, for as I’ve already mentioned, I rarely revisit a restaurant in NYC.
My only critique would be the dessert option, the Tarte Tatin, which was underwhelming and cold. My foodie sister went as far to say it was tasteless. Though even the best restaurants in NYC have failed to impress me with their dessert selection (I am a self-titled dessert connoisseur) so I won’t dock too many points. I’d say skip dessert and swing around the corner to Magnolia or Big Gay Ice Cream if you have a sweet craving.
In essence Buvette is a perfect spot to frequent to impress a date (I’ve done this), catch up with a friend while soaking up the heart of the West Village, show a non-native New Yorker the calmer-chicer side of NYC (Also done this), or simply to go for any foodie who enjoys novel restaurant concepts and classic French nourriture.
http://www.ilovebuvette.com/ – 42 Grove Street – (212) 255-3590 – No Reservations